A new lawyer for William Casey has new strategies to get another trial for the former Roman Catholic priest.
Francis X. Santore Jr. plans to file a formal petition by Thursday in Sullivan County Criminal Court seeking post-conviction relief for Casey, who was convicted in 2011 of first-degree criminal sexual conduct and two counts of aggravated rape in connection with the molestation of then-altar-boy Warren Tucker between 1979 and 1980.
Casey, now 81, was a longtime resident of the Camp Creek community in Greene County.
He was sentenced after conviction to a minimum of 35 years in prison by then-Sullivan County Criminal Court Judge Robert H. Montgomery Jr., who is now a judge on the state Court of Criminal Appeals.
Since sentencing in July 2011, Casey has been an inmate at the Tennessee Department of Correction's Northeast Correctional Facility in Mountain City. He will not be eligible for parole until at least 2026, when he is 92.
At the time of the sexual abuse of Tucker, Casey was serving as priest at St. Dominic Catholic Church in Kingsport, where he was pastor from 1976-1987.
He had previously served, from 1972-1976, as the priest at Notre Dame Catholic Church in Greeneville. There have been no allegations of abuse relating to his pastorate here.
He was formally removed from the priesthood in February 2013.
In addition to filing the petition for post-conviction relief, Santore plans to file motions asking recusal of the Sullivan County Criminal Court in favor of another trial venue, and recusal of Sullivan County District Attorney General Barry Staubus, who prosecuted the case in 2011.
In 2014, the state Court of Criminal Appeals affirmed the judgment and verdict of the trial court.
A petition for a new trial for Casey was denied last year by the Tennessee Supreme Court on June 20, 2014.
State law provides, however, that Casey has one year from the date of the state Supreme Court ruling to file a petition for post-conviction relief.
RETAINED BY FAMILY
Santore, of Greeneville, was retained earlier this year by Casey's family to secure a new trial for him.
He was represented at trial by prominent Kingsport criminal defense lawyer Richard Spivey and his son, Matt Spivey. One element of the petition for post-conviction relief fashioned by Santore is an allegation of ineffectiveness of previous counsel.
Santore said in the petition that he respects the abilities of the Spiveys, Montgomery and Staubus and has no "axe to grind," but does not believe Casey could get a fair trial in East Tennessee because of the widespread publicity the case attracted.
A key argument in the earlier appeals filed by the Spiveys was that any crimes committed against victim Warren Tucker did not come to light until after what Richard Spivey called a 32-year "pre-accusatorial" delay, which he said constituted a violation of Casey's due process rights.
Tucker, who is now 50 years old, first disclosed the abuse to law enforcement in September 2009.
TIME FRAME QUESTIONED
Santore questions the time frame of the actions alleged by Tucker in relation to the statute of limitations that applies to the crimes.
Casey was tried on the rape and molestation charges based on laws that were in effect between 1978 and 1980, when the victim said the abuse occurred.
Santore also said that Richard Spivey used a "failed trial strategy," and the defense did not dig deep enough in its pre-trial investigation.
Further, witnesses who could have rebutted prosecution testimony were not brought in at trial, Santore said.
Santore said that, if the case does go to trial again, he would put a defense expert witness on the stand to counter testimony by a prosecution expert witness about the reasons why Tucker did not come forward for so many years.
Santore said he has also identified a new witness whose testimony would call into question when and whether Tucker actually served as an altar boy at the Kingsport church: a matter which could affect the time-frame of the allegations and the statute of limitations relating to the charges against his client.
"Ineffectiveness of counsel was not the strategy that failed. What failed was there could have been a backup strategy," Santore said.
Staubus spearheaded a flawed prosecution case, Santore added.
"It seems like the state was trying to fit the charges to a crime that the statute of limitations ran out on," he said.
"There exist significant errors" that justify vacating Casey's conviction and sentence, Santore wrote in the 82-page petition for post-conviction relief.
Issues raised in the petition include:
* alleged violation of due process and equal protection issues, other than those raised at trial and in earlier appeals;
* alleged prosecutorial misconduct; and
* alleged ineffective assistance provided by trial counsel and appellate counsel.
"All the errors are cumulative enough that it would warrant a new trial," Santore states.
Santore acknowledged Tuesday that "it's very, very hard" to convince the trial court to grant a new trial based on a post-conviction relief petition.
Because Judge Montgomery is no longer a Criminal Court judge, Santore said it's not immediately clear who will be appointed to review the petition and make that determination.
CASEY 'IN GOOD SPIRITS'
Santore has met regularly with Casey as he prepared the petition.
"He's in decent health. He's in good spirits for somebody who's been incarcerated for the last four years," Santore said.
Santore said that Casey was "thrown under the bus" by the Catholic Diocese of Knoxville after allegations against him were raised by Tucker.
The diocese has not commented about the case since early 2013, when Casey was removed from the priesthood.
Tucker, who made the decision to go public with the allegations against Casey in 2009, lives in Kentucky and could not be reached for comment Tuesday.
Jeff Koenig, a friend of Tucker and also a member of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), lives in Louisville, Ky., and attended Casey's trial to lend support to Tucker.
"I completely feel that [the petition for post-conviction relief) is a shame. When you have childhood sexual abuse, the suffering is a lifelong thing," Koenig said Tuesday.
"Trying to get the conviction overturned just puts this in the forefront again," he added.
At the 2011 trial, there was testimony by diocesan officials that, after Tucker came forward with his accusations, Casey admitted sexually abusing him some 30 years earlier.
"Child sexual abuse (victims) keep getting the perpetrator thrown up in their face. It's pretty painful," Koenig said.
Susan Vance, a Knoxville resident and a member of the SNAP group, also supported Tucker after he went public with the allegations about Casey.
"I think the trial was very difficult for [Tucker]," Vance said Tuesday. "With William Casey's admission of guilt, I don't see where this could possibly go as far as an appeal."
Casey "admitted his guilt before a jury of his peers so (an appeal) is an uphill battle," Vance said.